by TINTSWALO BALOYI
JOHANNESBURG – SOUTH Africa must tighten the screws on the mining sector amid some in the industry throwing spanners into the works on efforts to increase the participation of women.
This is according to a senior official in the sector as the government’s drive to put the advancement of women in the key sector firmly on the agenda face some defiance.
“It has become crucial that the government regulate the inclusion of Women in Mining due to ongoing resistance from certain groups in mining,” said Advocate Vuyokazi Nontso.
She was the first black woman in South Africa to obtain a Mine Managers’ Certificate of Competency in Coal before attaining her Mine Managers’ Certificate of Competency for Metalliferous Mines in 2011.
She is one of only a handful of Mining professionals in South Africa who holds both Certificates.
Nontso currently she occupies the position of Risk and Compliance Manager at Nkwe Platinum South Africa (Pty) Ltd.
She was speaking in a wide-ranging interview with CAJ News Africa.
Her sentiments also come after the Mining Council launched the first National Day of Women in Mining, aimed at spurring the process forward within the council leadership, in mining company boardrooms and within mining companies themselves, and to put the advancement of women firmly on the agenda.
“Mining companies have played a major role in advancing women empowerment in this industry. It is a critical initiative which is being undertaken not only from mining company-level, but also from a government perspective,” Nontso said.
Females constitute around 14 percent of employees in the mining sector, indicating how the gender divide in the sector prevails.
The sector employs over 400 000 South Africans.
Nontso knows first-hand the disparities and stereotypes rampant in the sector, but these have not diminished her passion for the sector.
In fact, these have emboldened her.
“Challenges that were disturbing were the second guessing and plain sabotage, just to prove that, ‘You can’t include women, they are incapable’,” she said.
“I have thus learnt through these challenges, that some are not worth spending my time on and others, I must just deal with the person accordingly, if not harsher than what they deal, and still others require tact and diplomacy, no matter how correct I believe I am.”
Nontso continued, “Some challenges I have met with much zeal, as they were helping me to grow, and some with much exasperation, as women’s intelligence was being undermined.”
She recalled how being given the worst section in some companies she worked in, when she was the only woman in particular companies, made her develop herself formally and informally, in order to harness her people management and leadership skills.
“So, what was meant to break me down or to overwhelm me, only brought about a positive change that I would not have achieved by sitting in a comfort zone,” Nontso said.
She, nonetheless, commend some mining companies in “going beyond the call of duty” to ensure that empowering women is meaningful and not just making it a tick box exercise.
“Major leaps in women empowerment have been undertaken with the establishment of women’s forums within communities, to serve as platforms where the mines, the communities and government authorities can work together to share best practices and seek solutions for sustainable, inclusive socio-economic growth and wellbeing,” Said Nontso.
She emphasises that there is still a lot of progress to be made.
“For instance, mining companies can incorporate more bursary and training programmes for women in their social and labour plans, especially in skillsets which have traditionally been reserved for men.
“Training rural community women, specifically young, impoverished women, in mining equipment operations such as excavators, and cultivating their interest in obtaining underground mining operations certifications, would be good starting points to transform industry perception and bridge its gender divide,” concludes Nontso.
– CAJ News